Thursday, May 25, 2017

More past malls

About a a year ago I linked to footage from the late 1950s (before my time) of a mall in Minnesota. Well, here's some mixed footage (from a bunch of malls, I suspect) of malls in the 1970s, which would have been my childhood:

- the cars are like I remember cars being
- the clothing styles are familiar
- the sort of cruddy-quality 1970s videotape: yeah, that's like every b-roll from every human-interest story the local news used to do.
- the "fountain with rainbow lights" at about 30 seconds in - I'm pretty sure Chapel Hill had one of those, at least it's vaguely familiar (Apparently it was in part filmed at Rolling Acres, which was a mall I was at a few times in my childhood - it was farther from Chapel Hill but)
- it's kind of hilarious to me now that they are using "I am Woman, hear me Roar" as theme music, because I'm not sure shopping at the mall is so much thought of as women-empowerment now, but maybe back in the 70s it was different?
- Oh, the 1970s-style Penney's logo. I remember that being the logo the one at Chapel Hill had...
- Aladdin's Castle! The old game arcades, which came in in the early 80s when the big old console video games became popular. I never really spent time in one (we didn't live near a mall so I pretty much only got to the mall when one of my parents drove me there, so I didn't get to play video games....then again, I wouldn't have been the type, I think)

And the end of the video alludes to the fate of malls - it shows the mall (I am quite sure it's Rolling Acres, which is one of the famous "dead malls") in its closed-down state.

I dunno. It makes me slightly sad. I get that malls are dead as a concept - killed off by a combination of "it's really expensive to climate-control that much dead space," "people do a lot of their shopping online now," "lots of people have only Dollar Store budgets these days," and, in some areas "malls attracted groups of kids and others who misbehaved" but in some ways - malls were convenient. You could go there and walk around and go to lots of different kinds of stores - there were clothing stores for everyone in the family (kid-specific stores, stores for women, for men, even "big and tall" stores and what used to be called "Catherine's Stout Shoppes" for bigger women). There were toy stores and electronics stores and shoe stores. Some even had grocery stores, or at the very least, snack shops (the Woolworth's used to have a well-known candy counter - shoot, I think the Sears in the mall nearest where I grew up even had a candy counter). And often they had either lunch counters (I remember the ones that Woolworths' often had) or full-fledged restaurants (some of the department stores had fairly nice lunchrooms) so you could eat there if you were there over lunch.

I know in some ways Wal-mart has replaced malls, except there is less choice, the quality of goods is generally poorer, and pretty much the styles are limited - the malls had less-expensive and more-expensive options, so maybe your everyday clothes came from one store, but when you needed something "dressy," there was another store to go to.

And there were movie theaters, and the aforementioned arcades, and sometimes the malls had "events" - and some of them had merry-go-rounds and the like.

I don't know. I know the "sophisticated" position is that malls are "bourgeois" and terrible, but they were convenient and did offer a lot of choices. And they were a of the things about shopping online is that you don't really interact with other people. (Sometimes I think lack of regular human interaction, I mean, in-person interaction, is what is making people seem to act meaner these days).

I mean, yes, I suppose a small town made of small local businesses would be ideal, but that was largely gone - except for very high-price specialty stuff - by the time I was a kid. And the old-style department stores were also largely malls are what I remember as the "shopping" thing, and it is hard to get used to a harshly-lit "discount store" that tends to have, like I said, mostly not-very-well-made stuff.


purlewe said...

oh man. Malls. I remember in girl socuts we had lock-ins where you would spend all night at the mall. Some shops would be open late. There would be a fashion show from one or two shops. the arcade and the moviesw would stay open late and show films (your troop had to buy tickets in advance) I kinda miss a good mall.

Lynn said...

I loved malls and I miss going to them. A couple of years ago we went up to The Mall of America. I was very disappointed. Yes, it's huge but it seemed like over 90% of it was just clothing stores all full of the same ugly clothes. The malls I remember all had a good variety of different kinds of stores - lots of interesting little gift shops.
I think a big thing that made malls impractical for retailers is that too many of the people who went to them were just sight-seeing - walk around all day, maybe get something to eat but that's it.